CWRU President and Provost Reject Academic Boycott of Israel

In a statement e-mailed to faculty and other members of the university community, Case Western Reserve University President Barbara Snyder and Provost Bud Baeslack forcefully rejected calls for an academic boycott of Israel.  As they note, academic boycotts of this sort run contrary to principles of academic freedom and “seek to subvert one of higher education’s core values in service of other ends.”  I’ve reproduced their entire statement below the fold.

To the Case Western Reserve University Community:

As leaders of an institution of higher education, we must oppose the proposed academic boycotts of Israel in the strongest possible terms. In our 2008 strategic plan, Case Western Reserve embraced a vision where we sought to be recognized “as an institution that imagines and influences the future.” One of the ways we realize that aspiration is to exchange ideas, engage with one another and, ideally, discover concepts and deepen understandings in ways we never could have alone. In contrast, the surest way to fall short of that ideal is to withdraw and isolate, to let silence be our sole contribution to conversations and debates.

At an even more fundamental level, boycotts exemplify the converse of the concept of academic freedom. They seek to subvert one of higher education’s core values in service of other ends. One of the most admirable traits of the academe is that scholars often collaborate across borders of nationalities and governments, political and social systems. Indeed, Case Western Reserve so values the diversity of perspectives that come from global experiences that internationalization has been one of our leading priorities for the past five years. Since 2008, we have forged many new partnerships with academic institutions around the world, increased the proportion of our undergraduate classes that come from abroad, and actively encouraged our U.S. students to pursue studies in other countries.

We strongly endorse the statement opposing the boycott from the Association of American Universities, a group of the nation’s leading public and private higher education research institutions that includes Case Western Reserve. In addition, the American Association of University Professors has articulated a broad stanceagainst academic boycotts, and more recently urged the members of the American Studies Association not to support a resolution calling for such action against Israeli universities.

By the same token, we do not consider it sufficient simply to oppose academic boycotts. Threats to academic freedom damage all of us committed to the work of higher education. We stand with those who support freedom of thought and expression for scholars and students at institutions of higher learning around the globe.

In keeping with the principle of academic freedom, individual scholars at Case Western Reserve may well choose to embrace the boycott, condemn our opposition to it, or speak in favor of other solutions. Similarly, our university Faculty Senate may choose to issue its own statement after the winter semester commences. But after receiving direct inquiries from alumni and faculty regarding our position as the institution’s leaders, we thought it appropriate to describe our thinking in a thorough and transparent manner.

Sincerely,

Barbara R. Snyder
President

W.A. “Bud” Baeslack III
Provost and Executive Vice President